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Review: God Forbid, IV: Constitution of Treason (Century Media, 2005)

This is a hard one to review in some ways, because I like this record and I've been a God Forbid fan for several years now, but I have so many mixed feelings about the overzealous hype surrounding this record. No offense intended to anyone, least of all anyone associated with the band, like I said, I'm a fan, but… to be dead honest, this record is simply not as spectacular as everyone seems to be saying it is. Now, it is a damn slick sounding affair. Make no mistake: This is an extremely professional record. It sounds great, it looks great, and I absolutely respect and admire the work and thought that went into both the concept and the performances/production. And, yes, for God Forbid, there are a lot of progressions represented here. But, to me, it's kind of like a more technical and polished step forward from what they were doing on "Gone Forever", which was actually a massive step forward from the path they had tread previously. But I could almost argue that something like "Force-Fed" from "Gone Forever" is a stronger song than anything on "IV: Constitution of Treason". And that's where my struggle comes in with this one. I'm still all for God Forbid's prevalence of scorching solos and chugging staccato rhythms blended into a core of modern thrash metal with vocals that blend vicious screaming with increasingly solid singing and vocal harmonies, but when it boils down to songwriting I'm just not entirely sold on this material… in large part it's simply not that memorable to me. The musicianship and overall quality of the disc are certainly admirable, and I have no quarrels with the $13 I paid for the complete package, but despite what the rather hollowly glowing reviews and magazine covers would have you believe, God Forbid has still yet to really develop into the monstrous entity that they're still preparing to unleash. This time around it's the nearly seven-minute epic "The Lonely Dead" that acts as the most striking benchmark, utilizing plenty of energetic picking patterns and forceful dual guitar harmonies/leads that strike more of an emotional chord with its powerful surges and melodic sensibilities. "To the Fallen Hero" similarly stands out with its far more creative riffing, taking those modern thrash influences to different heights with atypical picking patterns and chord phrasings that provide a promising glimpse into what the band could achieve were they to continue to branch away from the sparse melodic Swedish undercurrents and the standards of what has apparently been dubbed the "New Wave of American Heavy Metal" sound. And that's what I think they'll do eventually, because some of those types of creatively dissonant riffs and churning note bends add glimmers to the otherwise less memorable title track as well, and that style of playing is by far the most interesting and forceful characteristic of this album when it comes to the literal issue of compositional traits as opposed to ideological execution or the excellence with which the performances have been documented. From a recording standpoint it's a clean and clear affair that takes care to ensure that no minor details are lost in the shuffle. The guitars are warm and crunchy without coming across as too beefy, which gives the rhythm section more room to hold things in place. The basslines could probably stand for more overall prominence, but I'm definitely into the crisp percussive presence, and the vocals blend exceptionally fluidly against the instrumentation. So, there's absolutely nothing to complain about there. The layout looks awesome and uses plenty of imagery relating to the overall socio-political concept of the record (the notion that history repeats itself via the tale of the modern world's collapse into a post-apocalyptic society that eventually rebuilds to a state of rampant greed), not to mention some nice looking band photos, while the lyrics are divided into three "Articles" where each track is broken out as a "Section" of its corresponding "Article", of course tying into the concept and record title, etc. "A bullet and a bible is all you need, In God We Trust… On Earth We Die, This is your fate; slave on the line, Crucify your beliefs for the great contradiction, Crucify your beliefs and save your own skin." This is one of those DualDisc deals as well, and I was actually more into the DVD content here, which provides about an hour-long look (maybe more, I can't quite recall, but there's plenty of viewing material) into every step of the record, from the writing process in the band's basement practice space to the recording at various studios, even the mastering and some of the photo shoots and marketing aspects, etc. And to tell you the truth, the DVD content actually plays a pretty significant role in how hard it is to review this disc, because it's so interesting to see everything that goes into a record like this, all the thought, all the hard work, etc. It's intense, and it's impossible not to respect that. But again, you know, from a songwriting standpoint… a lot of this stuff just isn't hitting me. They're doing a lot of cool things with textures and layering (check out some of the twisted little sustained notes back in the distance of "Under This Flag" when the clean guitars and chugging distorted chords are contrasting the sinister singing passages and such - that's some awesome shit), and they're definitely continuing to move forward, but like I said: God Forbid has yet to really develop into the monstrous entity that they're still preparing to unleash. This is a good record, an admirably ambitious record, but I can't say it feels as special to me as all the hype would indicate that it should. So, figuratively speaking this could be the "big one" that blows these cats up, but I know they've still got bigger and better in 'em.

[Century Media]
Running time - 50:20, Tracks: 10
[Notable tracks: The Lonely Dead, Under This Flag, To the Fallen Hero]
God Forbid - http://www.godforbid1.com